Sunday, 13 July 2014

The "Fika", The Holy Grail of Swedish Food Culture

Anyone who's hung out with Swedes extensively will have experienced the so-called "fika", the mid-morning and mid-afternoon break, traditionally involving a caffeinated drink and something sweet.

As one of my current lecturers on the nutrition course so aptly put it, the fika follows the blood sugar curve pretty accurately. If every main meal jacks up your blood sugar, you're bound to feel lethargic a few hours after the deed, needing a little something to pick you up and make your brain and body focused again. All a bit of a vicious circle, but not something you'd usually reflect upon. It's part of our culture.

However, when you stop playing violent roller coaster with your blood sugar, that fika is no longer a necessity. You rarely feel hungry between meals and if you do, you don't feel weak or the need to rip off someone's head (unless you've been fasting for 18 hours and pappa is standing between you and your heap of bacon, obviously).

That feeling of no longer needing or really appreciating the fika is a bit of a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, you're free. Free to continue what you're doing, free from fear of nearly fainting lest you not find a corner shop while on the move, free from the "need" to eat those sugary treats that tempt you everywhere.

On the other hand, when your life doesn't revolve around your next blood sugar fix, joining in those fika breaks can feel a bit odd, to say the least. Kind of like hanging out in a bar while drinking tap water. A bit boring, empty even, as the focus of it has shifted from what you put into your mouth to... the actual act of socialising. Are perhaps food or drink a crutch when we socialise? Why does it feel odd to just sit there and make conversation without chewing on something?

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